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A large part of the sculptures’ appeal lies in the artist’s skill in coaxing powerful expressions out of bronze in his subject’s faces. A notable example is Coming Home in front of Vincent Funeral Home. The sculpture portrays an African American father returning home from war and hugging his daughter. “The expressions on this particular sculpture, the detail of the uniform in the clothing is incredibly intricate,” Hilyard says. “People see the sculpture and you are just moved by it. It’s really remarkable what he was able to capture in that particular moment.” Vincent Funeral Home, 880

If you look quickly, you might think you’re looking at real people. And that’s largely the point of the 37 life-size bronze sculptures scattered around Simsbury, some of the hundreds of such works of art by the late Seward Johnson.

On display now through the end of September along the Simsbury Art Trail, most of the sculptures are part of the internationally renowned artist’s Celebrating the Familiar series and capture life’s little moments, mundane tasks and everyday connections with people, asking the viewer to slow down and reflect on what they are seeing. “It allows people to look at the moments highlighted in the sculptures or the scenes and connect with one another and reminisce about interactions we may have not previously paid attention to,” says Morgan Hilyard, executive director of the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce.

Given life’s upheavals these last few months, the timing is good for the town to bring back its sculpture-strewn art trail, last seen here in 2018 (only three sculptures are repeats from that year). Also a celebration of the town’s 350th anniversary and a way to promote local businesses, the self-guided tour is one of the few events the town was able to put on amid sweeping cancellations of most social gatherings due to COVID-19.

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“Can Do!” by Seward Johnson ©2015 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc., at the Simsbury Historical Society, 800 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury

“With everything that has happened and COVID-19, this has been particularly important for the local economy,” Hilyard says. “It allows businesses to jump-start again and begin to reopen. The normal traffic they would be getting was shut down, but now with this art trail it’s bringing patrons and new visitors.”

Some of the sculptures, which the town leases through the Seward Johnson Atelier, a nonprofit devoted to sharing Johnson’s public art, are within walking distance of each other in the business area, and most are a short drive away. All can be visited easily in an afternoon. Maps are available online and at local businesses. An outdoor, tented closing ceremony with refreshments, slated for Sept. 30 at a to-be-named location, will bring together all the sculptures on one site; tickets will be sold online at simsburycoc.org and simsburyarttrail.com.

Given the recent social-distancing efforts, this focus on human connection — a dad and son fishing, a pair’s chance meeting in a park or a couple having a dance — is timely. “It’s extremely relevant right now,” Hilyard says. “It tells us to slow down and rather than look at the big picture all the time … to instead focus on the little things and the simpler joys in life.”

Other highlights

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“Bunnies Don’t Bite by Seward Johnson ©2003 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc., at Flamig Farm, 7 Shingle Mill Road, West Simsbury

Bunny love: Hop over to Flamig Farm, beloved for its cuddly critters, to view Bunnies Don’t Bite, a charming sculpture of two children petting a rabbit. Hilyard says she grew up going to the farm and calls it the perfect location for this sculpture. “It’s a beautiful moment,” she says. Flamig Farm, 7 Shingle Mill Road, West Simsbury

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“Big Sister” by Seward Johnson ©1987 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc., at the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce, 720 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury

Let the kids play: Children figure in several of Johnson’s sculptures here, including Big Sister (Simsbury Chamber of Commerce, 720 Hopmeadow St.), which shows the bond between siblings with a big sister tying her little sister’s shoelaces. Attic Trophy (First Church of Christ, 689 Hopmeadow St.) captures the joy on a girl’s face as she hula hoops. In There, Now You Can Grow (King, Prell & Associates, 963 Hopmeadow St.), a little girl carefully waters some flowers. 


Simsbury Art Trail

Featuring 37 life-size bronze sculptures by artist Seward Johnson

On display now through Sept. 29; locations mostly along Route 202 in Simsbury

Free and open to the public

This article appears in the August 2020 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.